The "Dave G Camper" - Mercedes-Benz Forum
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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-30-2003, 07:26 PM Thread Starter
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The "Dave G Camper"

Well, not really. I can't claim any responsibility at all for this fine piece of craftsmanship. But I thought I'd share the fact that the TopTent arrived from South Africa today. Well, it arrived in Denver yesterday, but I had to do some customs paperwork and arrange for a trailer to haul it home, so I just now have it here safe in my garage. I'll get it on the truck this weekend for some "action shots". But to get an idea, here it is closed up:

-Dave G.
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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-30-2003, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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Here's what it looks like opened up


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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-30-2003, 07:42 PM Thread Starter
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Here's looking in the "door"

The yellow arrow notes the tabs that can be used to store the door flap and/or it's screen (separate tabs supplied for each) rolled up above the door. Each covering flap and movable screen has its own zipper for opening ndependently. The green arrows show pocket that are fitted for stowing toiletries, reading materials etc (in the tan canvas one on the left) or shoes in larger pockets in the green one at the right. I had mine fitted with these pockets near each door. The blue arrow shows the bars that support the roof. These are hinged at the center of their vertical length and the fabric is captured on them in a way that folds the entire tent inwards automatically as the roof is cranked down. No annoying tucking of fabric! The matress is on the firm side and quite sturdy. I went for the optional 10cm matress, 8cm is standard. The roof is padded and covered with cloth. No worries about condensation. The entire perimeter fabric is removable in two sections should repair or laundering ever become necessary. The fabric is canvas and reported to stand up to many years' use with an ocaisional Scotchguarding. In the foreground are the feet used to attach it to the G's rain gutters (two are shown of the six provided) and the piece that bolts on to hook the ladder to is also shipped separately to avoid damage. I'll have to attach it in the position I desire and then send some pix of the ladder in place after the tent is mounted on the truck.

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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-30-2003, 07:45 PM Thread Starter
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And finally down toward the end at one of the windows

There's a window at the front and at the rear end. If these are opened up, and the door flaps left open exposing their screens, it's very open and airy and should be great for warm summer nights in Moab!


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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-30-2003, 08:47 PM
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what models did you consider before deciding on this one? ...

what models did you consider before deciding on this one?

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-31-2003, 07:58 AM Thread Starter
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Uh....ALL of them.... :^)

Mostly I decided what I wanted first in the way of features.
1- ability to store bedding (winter sleeping bags) inside the folded tent.
2- a solid roof that could shed snow and rain so I didn't have to fold wet canvas in on my bedding
3- something durable enough to be handed down to my kids along with the G in 30 years.[:D]

Then I started talking to people who'd used these things on extended expeditions in Africa and South America.

The Voegle one really "looks the part" on the G, but was just too expensive to get here after shipping and all, looking at 4-5 grand.

I also shied away from the clamshell designs that hinge at one edge because most of them don't leave much room inside at all for bedding. A couple I talked to that used one on an extended trip in Canada ended up with a wet mattress when their sleeping bags kept the top pushed up enough that the sides weren't sealed even though the latch was closed.

So I was down to looking at the type that pop straight up, with solid roof and base, and cloth sides. I talked with a friend who used one of the Maggiolina's in Africa for a month solid. He thought it was okay, but said the fiberglass smell inside drove him nuts after a while. I laso didn't like the white fiberglass box making it look like I was driving around with a Winnebago on my roof. BUT, I didn't find anything better so my plan was to buy the Maggiolina, have it painted silver by a boat shop, and also look into tearing it apart to seal the fiberglass from the inside. Basically, taking the best I could find, and adapting it to fit my needs. I'm used to it.

But then a saint appeared to me in a vision.....Well actually, it was Michel from Johannesburg in E-mail. He told me that he had friends that used the Mag I was looking at, and he thought that while it was okay, it probably wouldn't be built to my standards, or what he'd come to know of them from watching my posts here. He started sending me pictures of various tent designs, commercial and one-off custom, that friends of his used on their expeditions in Africa. I discussed my needs with him and he thought the Top Tent would suit me well. After looking over the pictures he sent, I had to agree.

Michel's friend Barry builds these things on a per-order basis, and at the time I made my decision in July, Barry was off on safari in Ethiopia USING one of his own tents and wouldn't be back for 5 or 6 weeks. But eventually he got home and started building. Michel oversaw the whole thing for me and really put my mind at ease. He made it easy for me to buy this thing sight unseen and not be nervous the whole time whether I'd like what I was getting or not. I had total confidence in his ability to serve as my "man on the ground" in SA while it was built.

I have to say, I'm totally thrilled. This one will kick butt for my needs. I don't think I mentioned it, but the matteress size is just at 5' x 7', enough for two people.

If you need more room, and camp mainly in good weather (no worries about closing up wet), give the Hannibal roof tents a good look. They're a nice design, also bred in Africa, but they have distributors here (like pangeaexpeditions.com) so you don't have to import like I did.

One other thing to watch out for that I hated about the Maggiolina design and was going to have to rectify on my own, is that it isn't self-folding, so you have to go around tucking in canvas as you close it. Highly impractical when it's 7' in the air on my G's roof. The Top Tent is totally self folding with no tucking. The Hannibals self fold as well after you hook up some internal bungies on your way out the door. One thing I was surprised at with the Top Tent is how rigid it is when it's up. I expected it to sway a bit, but it's totally rigid when it's up. I don't know how they do it, but it's great.

With the TopTent, the more I look it over, the more little things I discover that are really just done RIGHT. A lot like the G in that respect. Sure beats the hell out of the opposite experience, which I'm more used to from Land Rover days, of continually finding things done sort of quirky and weird that need to be re-engineered.

Probably more than you wanted to know, but that's the condensed version, really.

-Dave G.
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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-31-2003, 01:23 PM
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Christmas Came Early!

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I'll get it on the truck this weekend for some "action shots".
Looks really great, Dave! We wanna have an action report, too, sometime soon. [8D] If I had any way to get mine inside the garage with anything on top, that would be the way that I'd go, too!

Any problems with Customs clearance?

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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-31-2003, 01:54 PM Thread Starter
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I said the same thing...

It was even cold (20F) outside with a few flurries in the air as I was unpacking it, so it really did feel like Christmas.

Customs was no sweat. I BARELY snuck in the door as they were closing, and other than a few looks from the officer expressing his wonder at why someone would pay nearly $2k and go to South Africa for a friggin' TENT. They must have paid any duties and tarrifs from the other end because I didn't have to pay anything at all, just have the guy sign off the papers.

I'll try to get out for at least an over-night ASAP. I have a spot where I can back the truck under a 2nd floor deck in order to be able to hoist the tent on and off. The truck barely fits in the garage, and gets driven every day anyway, so it's normal parking spot has always been outside. I think you can see from the pictures that the darned TENT barely fit in the garage, much less the G. [:)]

-Dave G.
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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-31-2003, 03:09 PM
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For your canvas use Sunbrella 303 High-Tech Fabric Guard. West Marine carries it. I us...


For your canvas use Sunbrella 303 High-Tech Fabric Guard. West Marine carries it. I use it on my boat canvas. The stuff is unbelievable. My cockpit cover will hold water after sprayed with this stuff. The fumes are strong when applying, but after it drys I don't notice the small. You may want to do a test run since you'll be sleeping in the tent though.

Dave
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 10-31-2003, 03:15 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Dave!


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